California Legislature Passes First-in-the-Nation COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package
New Data Underscores Urgency for Governor to Sign Farmworker Protections into Law
SACRAMENTO, August 31, 2020 – Today, Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) applauded the California Legislature for the passage of his first-in-the-nation Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package. Each of the relief package’s three bills received strong, bipartisan support, and are—together—a bold effort to protect the health, safety, and access to state services for agricultural workers in California, as well as the nation’s food supply. With increasing evidence of disproportionate outbreaks of COVID-19 among farmworker communities, the bills now head to the Governor’s desk for consideration.
Rivas said, “This year, we have seen farmworkers putting their health and, indeed, their lives on the line to help keep us fed during this pandemic. They have continued to work day-after-day despite the threat of illness or death from the virus. Since the coronavirus outbreak began, I have been sounding the alarm that crowded living and working conditions make farmworkers uniquely vulnerable to this pandemic.”
Now, a new study from UCLA shows Latino deaths have quintupled since May because of their status as “unsung essential workers,” such as agricultural workers. Similarly, a new report from Monterey County in Assembly District 30 indicates Latinos represent 93% of confirmed COVID-19 cases but represent only 61% of the population. Rivas said, “Monterey County is largely comprised of farmworker communities in the Salad Bowl Capitol of the World. The Farmworker Relief Package will help ensure that these essential workers in my District and across California are protected—not just now, but in the months and years to come.”
The Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package, as passed out of the Legislature, includes AB 2043 (Agricultural Workplace Safety), AB 2164 (Telehealth), and AB 2165 (Rural Access to Justice). Rivas explained, “Data is key to stopping this pandemic. AB 2043 requires Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations, which will allow us to craft better solutions and future legislation to protect our agricultural industry.” AB 2043, the marque bill of the relief package, which also includes worker education provisions, has gained broad support from industry, labor, and farmworker advocacy groups.
Rivas concluded, “I am grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature for supporting this urgently needed legislation, and I remain committed to fighting for the needs of District 30 and residents across California during these challenging times. Now more than ever, we must protect the health of our farmworkers and our nation’s food supply. I urge the Governor to sign these bills into law.”
California COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package
AB 2043 [formerly AB 2915]: Agricultural Workplace Health & Safety Act—with joint authors E. Garcia (D-Coachella) and Gonzalez (D-San Diego)
-- Ensures enforcement by Cal/OSHA of its COVID-19 guidance, funds a targeted bilingual outreach campaign to educate agricultural workers on Cal/OSHA guidance, as well as COVID-19-related paid sick leave and workers compensation benefits, and directs Cal/OSHA to track and report workplace investigations related to the agricultural industry
AB 2164: Telehealth Services for Rural and Community Health Centers Act—with joint author Salas (D-Bakersfield)
-- Expands telehealth services for rural and community health centers
AB 2165: E-Filing and Rural Access to Justice Act
-- Expands the availability of electronic filing to all state trial courts, given that access to courthouses is a serious problem in many farmworker and other rural communities
Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) represents California’s 30th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities and towns of Aromas, Big Sur, Chualar, Gilroy, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, King City, Morgan Hill, Salinas, San Martin, San Juan Bautista, Soledad, Spreckels, and Watsonville.